In Which Our Heroine's Halls Are Not Yet Decked

1 December 2004

I have started Christmas shopping in earnest. Today I'll get a big chunk of it done, some of it on other people's behalf. (If there are good sales, why shouldn't I pick things up on other people's behalf and get paid back later? I trust my relatives to pay me back promptly.) I'm going to make a fair number of things instead of/in addition to buying them, and I've got a good start on that and got more of a start with yesterday's errands. So rah. Also I have lots of good wrapping paper. I love good wrapping paper.

I finished reading the damn Cathar book, the one I started ages ago. The Yellow Cross, by René Weis. The thing about this book is that it only answered the question, "What did this bunch of Cathars do?" It didn't give any other framework for their behavior, any context, any insight. It was just a straight-up report of what happened then and what happened next. That's not even interesting in fiction; it's certainly not interesting in a series of events that were not contrived for my entertainment or edification. I don't think Weis brought enough to this book. I had the impression that anyone could have written it, and that's not what I want to think when I finish a book. Still, it's off my desk now, not becoming a permanent fixture.

I was going to pick up The Disorderly Knights next, but Pamela's copy is a little tattered, and while I know no one expects a book to return in better condition than it left them, I also think that shoving an already fragile book in my purse and shlepping it around the greater Twin Cities metro area Christmas shopping is suboptimal. So I'm reading Iain Lawrence's B for Buster, one of the historical YAs Stella gave me. It's not at all what I expected: it's about a Canadian kid who has lied about his age to get into the action in the Second World War. I'm not sure if I'm going to be keen on it yet. Hard to tell how it's going to go. But it'll be fast, most likely. Still reading Mer's book and making notes for her, too, though not as much as I should. I remember what it was like waiting for early crits on my first novel. Busy season, but still. I'll get at it more this evening.

I'm having a hard time gauging how long revisions to Thermionic Night "should" be taking me, whether I'm pushing too soon with them or not pushing hard enough or what. I've written books before, but never something this large, and never something that took this long. This may be the worst rough draft I've ever had, in terms of sloppiness, inconsistency, stuff needing to get revamped or added or subtracted in bulk or moved around. Since it follows up the best, cleanest rough draft I ever wrote (Dwarf's Blood Mead), it's particularly discouraging. I know that I'm trying to do more and different things with the Thermionic Night/Sampo sequence, and that every book is different and there's no point to comparing them, and that having a truly crappy rough draft on a different kind of book entirely doesn't mean that I have entirely lost all writing skills. It doesn't even mean that this book will never be worthwhile. It means that this book is hard, that these books are hard, and that I need to do them differently.

And that's okay. Nobody else cares if it takes me six blood-soaked drafts to get something out to my first-readers or if I can do a light polish and ship it off. What they care about is how the book comes out in the end, and ultimately, that's what I care about, too. It doesn't have to be easy. It doesn't have to be fast. It just has to come out right in the end.

I was saying last night that I envy the people who can tell from the process how the result will come out. There are writers who feel that they do their best work when the words are flowing easily, and there are writers who feel they do their best work when they're sweating blood over every line, and I was feeling a little frustrated that I have to wait and see how it reads later. Timprov suggested that there might be some observer error, that some personalities might be keener on things they remembered sweating over and more willing to find good bits in them, and others might be keener on things that associated with the "easy and clear" kind of writing. Could be. Anyway, I don't have either. It's orthogonal. I think that's probably a good thing for me, because then I don't distrust inspiration, and I don't distrust hard work. I just go with what I get.

Which is exactly what I'm going to do now.

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